Historical information on bald eagles in Vermont is limited; however, eagles were considered rare summer residents in the early 1900s. A pair was known to have nested on Lake Bomoseen in the central part of the state in the 1940s. After missing from the state for many years, in August 2008, a successful nest and fledging was confirmed in Concord, and two more nests were confirmed in 2009.
Recently, breeding Bald Eagle populations continue to hold steady in Vermont, but have not yet recovered enough to be removed from Vermont’s endangered species list. Eagles produced 16 fledglings in 2015, lower than the recent record of 26 fledglings in 2013. “The 2015 winter was especially severe in March and early April when most eagles are incubating their eggs, which likely had a negative impact on nesting success,” said John Buck, Vermont Fish and Wildlife biologist.
“While we can’t influence the weather, we can assist bald eagle recovery by identifying and protecting the critical habitat that is essential to their survival,” said Buck. “Bald Eagles usually nest and feed near open bodies of water. Conserving these sites, especially nests, will help to ensure the eagle population makes a successful comeback to Vermont.”
In Vermont, Bald eagles typically nest in tall trees with broad visibility and sturdy branches located near lakes and rivers. Adults show a strong tendency for fidelity to their breeding areas, and will often use the same nest for many years. The nest tree requires sturdy branches to support the growing weight of the nest as materials are added each year. Nests are usually located approximately 50 to 60 feet high and 5 to 30 feet below the top of a live tree.
Egg-laying generally begins from early March through as late as early May in the Northeast. Clutch sizes range from one to three eggs. Incubation lasts about 35 days. Competition for food in the nest can be fierce and the youngest chick often dies. Fledging occurs at 11 to12 weeks after hatching. Parental care may continue for up to three months after they leave the nest. The entire breeding cycle, from courtship to fledgling independence, takes at least six to seven months.
You can see where eagles have been sighted on Vermont eBird. If you find a nest site, please report it to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department or VCE. Please do not approach or disturb nesting areas.